My dad wears earplugs to church.
He really does.
But before you think he is trying to tune out the sermon (after all, why else would he attend church?), let me explain that it is because he is worried about losing his hearing in church.
This is a real and legitimate fear that I, at age 30, am realizing is something we really all ought to have.
My dad’s not the only one. I have heard other people—though I admit they are mostly over the age of 45—complain that churches today are just too loud.
I attend a rather quiet church. Yes, most of the time, I wish the music were a little more upbeat and contemporary, that there were a guitar rather than just a piano, that sort of thing. But at least I don’t worry about losing my hearing. There is no worship team, and the choir has simple choir mikes. Nothing is blasted anywhere. My eardrums are grateful.
But I attended a concert last night that made me wonder, Why do we think louder is better?
I admit I didn’t know most of the songs, and I went mostly for the company and the experience. I had a fabulous time, thanks to some ladies from my PWOC group and to great musicians. (And dinner at Dairy Queen, which is a rare treat.) But because I didn’t know many of the songs, I felt pretty out-of-the-loop.
Because I couldn’t understand the words! I caught maybe one out of every ten words.
Because it was so darn loud! There was so much audio distortion due to volume that I literally could not understand the lyrics of the songs. If it had been true only for the warm-up bands, I wouldn’t have minded so much. (OK, so the Sidewalk Prophets can hardly be considered a warm-up band, but they were not the name on the ticket.) But the featured artist was just as hard to understand.
I get having loud music for a rock band. I’m totally down with that. I went to an Audio A concert once, and we sat right in front of the speakers midway back in the fair tent. Dude. We could feel the bass just pounding in our whole bodies. Quite the experience. But I’d expect that sort of thing from Audio A.
Honestly? The songs I enjoyed most the whole evening were the ones with the least accompaniment. Francesca Battistelli has a lovely voice, and I loved the songs in which I could actually hear it, when she wasn’t being drowned out by the bass or electric guitar, the songs in which she sat down and sang to a single guitar.
Yeah. That was nice. I didn’t know the songs, and I could hear her singing, understand the words, and be moved by their power.
OK, yes, so some songs are more upbeat and can use some more pep and volume, but really, to blast the music at a level that will literally cause long-term hearing damage if the listeners (not to mention the musicians) are exposed over a long period just doesn’t make any sense to me. Why is louder better?
From another angle entirely, if the musicians really do seek to minister to people in their concerts and spread the gospel, wouldn’t their music be more effective if the lyrics were intelligible? Some of the words are so juicy and powerful if only they could be heard. Evangelistically, loud and distorted music just doesn’t seem very ideal.
Maybe it’s just me. From now on, though, I think I’ll either have to stick to concerts of people with whose music I am rather more familiar or take earplugs and enjoy the lights show. And when my peers are going deaf at 45, I’ll just smile and whisper, “Can you hear me now?”